Restlessness, or Why I Decided to Travel
I quit two jobs that were not only enjoyable but also afforded a very comfortable lifestyle, sold (most) all the stuff I had acquired over my lifetime, and gave up my apartment. I said goodbye to friends and family, knowing it may be quite sometime before I see them again. In retrospect this all seems a bit foolhardy, and it's certainly caused it's fair share of anxiety, but ultimately this is really the only thing I can imagine myself doing for the time being.
On The Move
From childhood I can always sense that I was a restless person. I never liked routine. Sure it was comfortable, but it always led to an overwhelming feeling of dissatisfaction. I felt most comfortable when I was adapting to new things. Once I got into the groove I would enjoy it for a while, but eventually the novelty would fade and I would begin looking toward my next move. I can see this desire manifested in the spontaneous trips I would take with friends in high school, my love of music festivals, and even my transferring of school after my sophomore year in college. After taking my first solo-trip abroad I was hooked. I came back and imediately was planning and saving for my next trip after graduation. I love the feeling of having to adapt, and being forced to think on your feet. It not only keeps me stimulated mentally, but it also has led to a greater sense of self-confidence.
At times I have to stop and ask myself what is causing this desire to uproot myself and flee my comfort zone. Am I running from something? Am I hoping that my life will be drastically changed and my days will be spent lounging, drinking beer, and eating amazing food? The answer to all of these questions is a resounding no (well, except for the good food and beer). I must admit, that I do worry at times. I am certainly a person who enjoys certain Western comforts, and I certainly enjoy the comfort of my own bed and the room I've made my own. However even more than this I value growth and experience, and both of those are impossible to achieve while stuck in a monotonous routine. Instead I am choosing to travel as a way to escape menial minimum wage jobs, going to the same bars and having the same conversations, and ultimately waking up every morning to the same exact day. I am taking a bit of a drastic step, but then again I was always an all-or-nothing kind of person.
Many people assume that those who are constantly on the move are running from something; this is sometimes true, but it rarely works. In Alan Watts' books The Wisdom of Insecurity he says, "Running away from fear is fear; fighting pain is pain; trying to be brave is being scared. If the mind is in pain, the mind is pain. The thinker has no other form than his thought." This quote immediately clicked with me. I'm sure most people can relate to trying to outrun their thoughts or bombard their senses to quiet them. Travel, like many other things, can't be used as an escape from problems. Sure a week away from home can certainly help your mental state, but it won't fix your problems.
The first time I decided to travel overseas I did so because I was running. I was unhappy with school, work, my personal life, everything. I thought that packing up and leaving would be my ticket to happiness, if just for a short amount of time. I was in for a rude awakening. It had not occurred to me that changing your surroundings does not in turn change who you are, or the problems you face. This was a lesson I quickly learned, and had to deal with.
This time around I have no false-notions of what traveling is and is not. I don't expect travel to solve any problems, instead I look forward to the challenges that I will face, and I will embrace them as learning experiences that shape the path I have chosen for myself. This path is one that I hope will expose me to many new ways of life, and allow me to share my experiences with others. By doing this I hope to not only become a more well rounded individual, but also a better person in general.
People always say they applaud those who travel, but when asked why they don't do it themselves they say they never had the opportunity. That's a problem I refuse to succumb to. Instead of waiting for the perfect opportunity I have chosen to create my own.
"Has it occurred to you that there may be really nowhere to go, because you take yourself with you if you go somewhere else?" - Alan Watts (can you tell I've been reading/listening to a lot of Alan Watts lately?)